CommCon 2018 – The Open-Source Community Comes Together

By Alan Percy, Senior Director of Product Marketing, TelcoBridges

Imagine as your taxi is pulling into the driveway of a conference center and as you get closer, it appears there are badge-wearing conference attendees chasing ducks around the front lawn. The first thought goes through your head is “am I at the right place?”  And the answer is, yes, you are…

A few years ago, I had the fortune to met Dan Jenkins, a young software developer by trade who is deeply engaged in the open-source developer community. Dan and I first met at some of the hack-a-thon events where he was helping contestants build voice and video applications with the APIs he had built for WebRTC. During our first meeting, Dan was like many of the people that participate in hack-a-thons: pretty quiet and very knowledgeable about their craft.

Image my surprise when last year Dan kicked off CommCon, a new conference focused on the open-source developer community. Billed as “a conference done right”, my first thought was “was that the same Dan?” Yes, it is the same Dan!

Back to the ducks. Like many conferences, breaking the ice between attendees and doing some team building is an important part of a successful event. Being held in the English countryside, what better activity to break the ice than lessons on duck herding with a team of border collies. Under the guidance of “Bob the duck whisperer”, a group of the attendees soon learned how to use calls to get the dogs to go left, right, stop and start. In teams of three, we all had an opportunity to work together with the dogs to guide the ducks through a series of posts and back to their pen. Other team-building events gave teams an opportunity to try archery, Segway navigation, falconry and try a bounce in a Zorb.

Like Bob, Dan herded his 50+ attendees through an incredible week of technical learning, workshops, networking and team-building events in a stellar setting. During his opening keynote, Dan challenged the attendees: “Don’t be a Knob” – meaning you should treat others as you would like to be treated.  (A simple rule  –I may get it made into a bumper sticker) With this tight-knit group all under one roof, and many of whom complete with similar solutions, there are plenty of opportunities for friction. I had plenty of opportunities to meet and talk with nearly everyone else – building some great new relationships and share what TelcoBridges had to offer the open-source community.

The week wasn’t all fun and games, there was plenty of time to learn from the other attendees during the technical presentations (which can be viewed here). Three days of jam-packed presentations on two tracks, one focused on VoIP while the other focused on WebRTC. The VoIP track featured presentations on Asterisk, FreeSWITCH, Kamailio, OpenSIPS, Kubernetes and more.

The key take-away from the event is a fresh appreciation for the inter-twined and inter-connected nature of the various network elements needed to build a service provider solution. Call switching from here, media services from there, network diagnostics from somewhere else. All supported on a volunteer basis. It left me wondering – is this the right way to manage a revenue-producing network? Frankly, some simplification and tight technology alignments would help significantly.

Daniel-Constantin Shares Kamailio

I came away from the event better educated, with a host of new contacts and a new appreciation for the open-source community.

Tip of the week: “Come bye” makes the dog go clockwise and “Away” makes the dog go counter-clockwise.  Just don’t forget to stop the dog in-between commands with a “Lie down”.

 

Battling Robocaller Fraud – Top 5 Questions

By Alan D. Percy, Senior Director of Product Marketing, TelcoBridges

Last week we hosted a webinar with our Alliance Partner TransNexus, titled “Battling Robocaller Fraud – an Introduction to STIR/SHAKEN”.  As we expected, the topic was wildly popular with a larger than normal audience attending the live event and a long list of great questions during the Q/A.

As noted by Jim Dalton, CEO of TransNexus at the start of the session, automatic dialers with pre-programmed IVR scripts (aka Robocallers) do have valid applications (reminder calls from medical offices, bill pay reminders, school closures, reverse 911…)  But they are increasingly being used as part of elaborate fraud schemes, bilking victims and stealing their identities.  As noted by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), over 10,000 victims have collectively paid over $54 million because of phone scams since October 2013.  And that’s just the crime that was reported.

What is STIR/SHAKEN?

In a nut-shell, STIR/SHAKEN is a framework that adds an encrypted identity certificate to the header of a SIP INVITE (the message that initiates the call), proving that the originator has permission to use the associated caller-ID.

Once the call makes its way through the various IP-based wholesale operators, the terminating operator can use a public key to examine the certificate and verify that the caller-ID is intact and rightfully being used by the originator. Calls with a valid certificate will pass to the recipient unimpeded and with the associated caller-ID, knowing it is valid.  If a call arrives without a valid certificate, the terminating operator may flag the call as possible SPAM, send the call to a Captcha-like screening application or block the call altogether.

With literally billions of unwanted robocalls being made every month, they have become the largest source of complaints to the FCC, a very popular topic for a webinar and a great source of questions.

Here’s the Top 5 questions (and answers) from the “Battling Robocaller Fraud” webinar:

#1 How will stir/shaken affect class 4 telephony?

Answer: Implementing STIR/SHAKEN only impacts the originating and terminating carriers.  The intermediary carriers (class 4) must pass the SIP identity headers without modification.

#2: Sounds great, but it depends entirely on the originating TSP to provide genuine authentication.  What guarantees do we have this will be done by all originating TSPs, especially cellular carriers?  What about calls that originate outside the US?

Answer:  As the terminating service providers begin to flag calls without certificates as potential SPAM, or begin screening calls, the originators (both domestic and foreign) will have a strong incentive to add certificates to their calls.  One of the beauties of STIR/SHAKEN is that the originators of bogus calls can be quickly found and dealt with by the regulators, making enforcement pretty easy.

#3: Does STIR/SHAKEN work only on the PSTN using SS7?  What about OTT calls?

Answer: STIR/SHAKEN depends on IP infrastructure and the certificate is lost when handing a call over to a legacy TDM network.  However, calls without a certificate can be flagged in the caller-ID by adding/substituting text in the caller-ID fields.   Other applications like Skype SIP trunks could pass this information too.

#4: Does the size of the SIP packet require carriers to use TCP instead of UDP?

Answer: No, the identity certificates do fit within a SIP/UDP INVITE packet.  However, there is a trend to consider SIP/TCP to handle traffic in the future.

#5: What role does TelcoBridges FreeSBC or Tmedia Gateways play?

Answer: When a call is originated, either the SBC or gateway passes the INVITE to the Authentication Server, which returns a signed SIP token to the SBC/gateway before passing the call to the network.

There were many more great questions (22 in all!) – take a listen to the recorded webinar, available now in the FreeSBC Video Library

More insight into STIR/SHAKEN can be found in an Understanding STIR/SHAKEN article by TransNexus article

Interested in integrating STIR/SHAKEN into your network?  Request a consultation at the Discover SHAKEN workshop from TransNexus.